By Ted Waddell
WURTSBORO April 11, 2006 It wasn't an event for couch potatoes.
On Saturday, the Sullivan Striders Running & Walking Club held its Fifth Annual Wurtsboro Mountain 30K Race.
The event attracted a field of more than 90 runners. Those athletes who ranged in age from about 20 to 60, with most in their 30s and 40s started and finished the race at the Emma C. Chase Elementary School.
The race was started four years ago by Brian Cavanagh, a health educator at Fallsburg Central School, because at the time there were no long distance races in the county.
Im the chief instigator, he said jokingly. I started the 100K Catskill Mountain Road Relay as a team race using that as a marathon training tool.
(In that annual event, each member of a five-person team runs a couple of 10K legs over a span of six to 10 hours).
Cavanagh wanted to promote long distance running in the area.
I noticed there werent any races longer than 10K in the area, and at the time no 30K races in the state, Cavanagh said.
Now there are a handful of certified 30K runs (18.64 miles) here in The Empire State.
Cavanagh said it took him more than 30 hours of carefully measuring the course to get it certified as accurate (guaranteed to within .01 percent) by the United States Track & Field Association.
If a national or world record were set on a nationally certified course, the U.S. Track & Field Association would send out their own team of measuers to re-measure the course, he said.
If it was too short, no record; if it was too long, the record would stand.
Starting at the local elementary school, the runners went up Sullivan Street towards Masten Lake, over the K-line bridge, up Mt. Prosper Road to Yankee Lake Rd, and by the 3 1/2 mile-mark had gained about 1,000 feet in elevation, reaching the highest point on the course.
Then it was pretty much all downhill, with a few rolling hills and some flats along the wetlands thrown in to keep things interesting.
Runners then worked their way along a short stretch of Route 209 onto Otis Hill Rd, then Indian Orchard Rd. and finished up the race on a flat 6/10-mile leg leading up to the finish line.
Running is a tremendous challenge to overcome or transcend ones own personal limitations, said Cavanagh, whose own career was sidelined by an injury.
Its going beyond what one has done before, he added. It evolves into a state of tranquility when you hear the sounds of rushing water.
Asked how athletes break through the pain barrier, Cavanagh recalled some advice he got from former Olympic athlete Don Kardong, who was the fourth-place finisher at the Montreal Olympics in1976.
He told me that on the days you feel stronger or faster, you run longer and faster, but on the days where you dont feel as energetic, you do less or go at an easier pace, Cavanagh commented.
If a runner starts out way too fast and experiences a lot of discomfort, theyre not going to last, Cavanagh added. Elite athletes listen for signals of discomfort that they hear from their bodies, and adjust their pace accordingly.
As a certified track and field coach since 1985, Cavanagh is helping the Fallsburg Central School athletic staff rebuild the districts track and field program for students in fourth through sixth grades.
Miriam Loor is president of the Sullivan Striders, while Dennis Toscano serves as executive vice president.
Its you against you, Loor said of lure of long-distance running events. Its pushing your limits and finding out how far you can go
finding that inner peace within yourself while youre running.
Wayne McDaniel of Hopewell Junction finished first in the mens division with a time of 2 hours, 5 minutes, 13 seconds.
It was a beautiful course with perfect temperatures, said McDaniel, who began running back in 1988. No sweat, nice and cool.
Conni Grace of Poughquag wrapped up the race by capturing first place. Her time of 2:11:52 was only a few minutes behind her partner McDaniel.
My dad got me into running when I was 11 because he wanted to start running 10Ks, she recalled.
We started running 10Ks from the gitgo in 1974, Grace added.
Her take of the Wurtsboro Mountain 30K?
It was good, she replied. We just finished the very windy Virginia Marathon, and will probably be running the New Jersey Marathon in two weeks, so for us this was like a break in between marathons.
For more information about the Sullivan Striders, which is the only running and walking club in the county, please visit the clubs informational Web site www.sullivanstriders.org or call Loor at 791-9235 or Toscano at 292-6483.